THE NUMBERS GAME
15 March 2002
I couldnt believe the numbers. Just
couldnt believe them.
I checked the piece of paper again. Nope. They were really there. Typed even. No
question about misinterpretation due to bad handwriting.
I compared them with the previous set. I still couldnt believe it.
They were my lab results. After I went to a diabetes class a couple of weeks ago, they
ordered new lab tests for me. They ordered blood glucose tests, and I requested
cholesterol testing just to see how the new regimen had affected the numbers.
The dietician told me that it generally takes at least 4 months before you show much
change in cholesterol levels and I hadnt been on this new program all that
longand had only been exercising for a month, but to humor me, she agreed to ask for
the cholesterol testing.
When the results came back, I was first interested in the glucose testing. The A1C is
lower, but still in the marginally diabetic range, which disappointed me a bitmy
daily sugar readings have all been so "normal" that I hoped that this 3-month
average would also be in the "normal" range, but not yet.
But then I checked the cholesterol numbers. In August, when it was last drawn, my
cholesterol had been 215. Thats the highest its ever been. It always hovers
around "borderline" and medical people cluck their tongues and warn about going
over that magic "200" number and caution diet and exercise, but Id always,
of course, ignored them.
Now here I wasactually on that straight and narrow path. Dieting. Exercising.
Taking care of my body. What would the numbers show?
Thats right. One hundred and sixty-six. I had dropped 50 points in the past 2
months, thanks to clean living.
The HDL/LDL ratio isnt ideal, but its better, and it will continue to get
better as I stick to this program, but boy, if there was ever an incentive to keep doing
what Ive been doing, this lab slip is definitely it.
This morning I received an e-mail with an offer for some magic formula that would lower
your cholesterol. I scoffed. I dont need that. I have GREAT cholesterol.
In fact, my friend the nurse, on getting my e-mail shouting to the hills about the new
numbers wrote, "My god, you now have the cholesterol of a marathon runner."
Well, Im not ready to run a marathon yet, and with what I assume is a touch of
arthritis in my toes, which sometimes makes walking a little painful, I probably
wont ever get into serious running, but by golly, I can keep those numbers down.
Next goal is to get the blood pressure down. Again, my blood pressure has always
hovered around borderline, but when I had it tested in August it was up. I dont
remember the exact numbers at that time, but the provider requested that I have it tested
periodically over the next few months.
Naturally, I didnt do that (mostly because I was embarrassed and thought that my
arm wouldnt fit in those do-it-yourself machines in the stores). But I did ask Dr. G
to take my blood pressure before he left on vacation.
"Youre not going to want to hear this," he told me.
It was 150/105. Thats high. My diastolic has been running at 90 as long as I can
He said that normally hed put me on blood pressure medication right away, but
that the level wasnt so high that it was in the dangerous range yet, and with my new
regimen, he wanted to give it a bit and see if I could bring it down with diet and
He returns from his month vacation...today, actually (or hes on a plane as I
write this). He will be back seeing patients again on Monday and I will ask him to check
to see if, in the intervening month, the blood pressure has dropped at all.
Ive gone all these years with passing interest in the numbers I see. I know the
weight numbers, but have tried not to pay attention them. I never remembered the
cholesterol or blood pressure numbers, other than to know they were borderline.
Suddenly the new me (with the weight loss, I suppose I should call the new me
"mini me"!) is in competition with the old me and those numbers are really
important to me. As I cheer each week with the increasingly decreasing numbers on the
scale, so will I begin to pay attention to all the other numbers: the cholesterol, the
HDL/LDL ratio, the blood glucose, the blood pressure. (As well as the number of minutes on
the exercise machines, the level of work expended, the number of points of my food during
For someone who professes that she is not very good at numbers, suddenly they seem to
have become the center of my life!